There’s a fear that I feel in the middle of a Pride parade that I’ve never felt anywhere else. It comes on slowly, after the high of the crowd wears off. I begin watching the eyes of spectators suspiciously, curling in on myself. I feel an anxiety and self consciousness that I haven’t experience since middle school. Anxiety turns to fear, which turns to shame and a desperate want to leave.
It’s an interesting phenomenon considering that I’ve been out since I was 13 and have never felt any shame over who I was. Coming out was a remarkably easy process for me as a kid in the south. I was occasionally self-conscious about how my sexuality influenced others opinions of me, but never to the point of being fearful. So last summer, at my first big Pride march in Boston, when these feelings arose, I was tied up in knots. Why was I afraid? Self-conscious? What was wrong?
After reflection I found that I was terrified of being out in a way I had never experienced before. After a tumultuous freshman year, I was less secure as a person, in my future, and of my future success than I had ever been. I was so afraid of my sexuality being exposed and damaging my future and reputation in some way. As being out has historically done to so many queers in the past.
Maybe this is a remnant of my time in the south, my position of trying to discover who I was and how I would make my way into the academic world, or just a legacy of the fear that queer people have lived with forever. Regardless of where it originated, or how irrational the fear may be in this era, I still found myself terrified in a crowd of celebrators. Fearful of the eyes and minds watching and how they could hurt me with this knowledge.
It’s a ridiculous fear considering my easy experience coming out, where I live, and where I go to school. Even the most conservative Ivy is still pretty liberal. And yet, logically talking about the situation has done nothing to alleviate these feelings. Trust me, I’ve tried.
And maybe this is the point of Pride to some extent. To be out in public. To normalize yourself to the discomfort of being out, and to try to combat the damage that this fear done to keep us in the closet. So, regardless of the discomfort that I felt, I marched in NYC Pride yesterday. I focused on the people around me and the general feeling of acceptance that seemed to permeate half the city rather than focusing on consequences that may never happen.
Happy Pride everyone <3